Now What? Three Weeks After Kona…

Hard to believe it’s already been almost three weeks since Kona – still reflecting…

Time flies.

Downtime is always in order immediately following any big evert, in order to let the body rest, recover and rejuvenate.

But how about the mind?

One of the main reasons I ever got into Ironman in the first place was because I found it to be the perfect outlet for stress, worry, anxiety… Of course, there was also a huge component which was the sheer love I have of running (and cycling and swimming, but running has always stood out by a long shot!), how I feel during and afterward and the incredible amount of creativity that physical activity that comes forth after the simple joy of moving.

But if I were to disregard the role that sport has played for me in terms of keeping me emotionally healthy, it would be akin to chalking up someone’s weight loss success solely to exercise and not factoring in what they’re eating.

The reason I bring this up today in this post is that while it’s easy to see why a recovery phase from activity makes sense from a rational perspective, it’s not always easy to implement said recovery phase from an emotional one.

If your only outlet when you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed or anxious is to go for a run, what do you do if you can’t? Perhaps you’re injured, or you’re on a plane or you’re stuck in terrible traffic… then what?

This is precisely where and when three other factors can come into play.

1. Actual rest, as in sound sleep.

2. Diet, not as in how you’re going to keep from getting fat during the holidays, but how what you’re eating could be predisposing you

to feeling even more stressed, overwhelmed and anxious.

3. Emotional health / balance. Exercising your brain as a muscle, meditating or simply taking time to focus on your breath… what every suits your fancy and allows for even a short period of inward reflection plays a considerable role not just in how one might deal with feelings immediately after a race but during any potentially challenging situation.

Sleep

We all know we should be getting an average of 8 hours, right?
But how many of us are?

Studies (1) show the average American gets only 40% of recommended hours per night and of that only X are deep, restful sleep. Making your bedroom ideal for sleeping by removing TV, creating complete darkness and silence is the first step, and it takes next to no time to excuse this. What may prove more tricky but is no less important is tailoring your schedule to allow ample time between eating dinner and bed, not having too much alcohol to drink prior to hitting the hay and eliminating or at least reducing other distractions, like getting the kids off to bed on time and trying to figure out how to keep the large dogs off the bed (the latter of which, I have zero experience in… as in, being successful at it!)

Diet

Say it’s the day after the race, or two days after, or the day after any important milestone in life you’ve been preparing for, for a while. Whether it goes exactly as you’d envisioned it or it tanks, the following period of time inevitably can feel like a let down. I often find myself with a ‘now what’ feeling during this period. I know I’ll be racing again, of course, but in particular, when the last race of the year has come and gone, there’s a definite feeling of missing that structure I get with a training plan and having to readjust the schedule to open up more time for other things, (ahem- such as work) as well as to shift to more off-season modalities of exercise (as opposed to training). Yoga, pilates, strength training and trail running are four of my personal off season faves. I’ll keep cycling and swimming in the mix, but with less frequency and more focus on technique.

Now’s when making sure you’re sticking to your eating plan highlighting an emphasis of local, in season veggies, ample fat – even more important now to raise the volume on the Omega 3 rich foods like wild salmon or black cod in order to decrease post race inflammation and support brain health (2)- and properly sourced proteins to allow the body the building blocks it needs to further support the restorative process.

Steering clear of sugars (including too much fruit) during this time is key as skewing the balanced blood sugar you’d have when following an authentic Paleo approach (that’s what this is, after all) with a little bit of the LCHF protocol mixed in will further support an overall recovery, as well as keep you from starting this stretch of time into the holidays on the wrong foot!

Emotional Health

We’ve all got our demons and we all can choose to work through them… or not. For me, having implemented a regular mediation program earlier this year has proven to be invaluable, to say the least. While it started because I wanted another tool to have in my pocket to work with day to day stress or challenges we all face, I have found it to have overflown beautifully into all other areas of my life to enable more balance, calm, creativity and focus.

So what’s next, you might ask?
Well, my coach threw me a curve ball by suggesting I hope into another Ironman while I’m still at peak fitness!

Completely counter to everything I’ve written above, yes, but from his job as my coach, it made total sense.

Will I go?

Doubtful…. I was all set for off season / holiday mode, ready to hit the trails even more than I do on season, but I’d be fibbing if I claimed it didn’t pique my interest just a little!

Although, marathoning is also tempting me…I told you I loved running! I was invited to run NYC last year but deferred… thinking I’m going to defer again and likely stick to my original R+R plan.

But then, you never know!

I truly believe that this three pronged approach to wellness, off season or not, is what allowed me to have come off Kona feeling fit and strong enough to even consider another IM in the first place.

Watch this space… stranger things have happened!
(1) http://www.gallup.com/poll/166553/less-recommended-amount-sleep.aspx

Gallup, Inc. “In U.S., 40% Get Less Than Recommended Amount of Sleep.” Gallup.com. N.p., 19 Dec. 2013. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

(2) https://www.drfuhrman.com/learn/library/articles/73/the-benefits-of-omega-3-fatty-acids-on-brain-health

“The Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Brain Health.” Smart Nutrition, Superior Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.